Having considered the current guidance and the local and national picture of Covid-19 cases, we have decided not to make any major changes to our current working practices for the time being.

We continue to have a legal duty to manage the risks of Covid-19 within the Institution and to provide a safe workplace for our staff and volunteers.  While we recognise that there is no fail safe set of guidelines to keep Covid-19 at bay, our priority is to enable members, volunteers and staff to use the building and collection as safely as possible and we want to ensure that shared spaces continue to be a reassuring and relaxing environment for everyone wishing to use them.

We look forward to welcoming you back to the Institution this season.

The Staff Team and Trustees


Our current guidelines are as follows 

Opening hours

The Institution is open five days a week, Tuesday to Friday from 10.00am to 5.00pm and Saturday from 10.00am to 4.00pm.   The Inner Library and all collections will be open for research by appointment.  We now offer a bespoke library service, so please book before you come and we will have your books ready for you when you arrive.   Bookings can be made via WebCollect or via telephoning the office. 

Entry procedure

Key fobs have been reactivated but we are still limiting the number of people in the building, in line with local authority advice.   You will be greeted by a member of staff in the front hallway and signed in.    On your first visit to the Institution you will also be taken through a short induction.    We request that you use the hand sanitiser provided immediately on arrival.

In line with other independent libraries and heritage buildings, we politely request that you wear a mask and observe social distancing while you are in the building.   We will review this in the new year. 

Study spaces

For those wanting a quiet space to work, we have seats available in the upstairs Reading Room and the Stirling Room.  Currently, these are available on a first come first served basis.   (Study spaces will be limited on Saturdays, in order to run member events and workshops).

Outer Library

We are offering our usual range of newspapers and magazines, now including the New York Times.     Members are no longer required to wear gloves to access newspapers.

Programme of events

We have resumed our full programme of live talks and lectures, in line with public health guidance.

We politely request that you wear a mask when attending these events*, with the exception of events involving food and drink.   Please note that it is impossible to socially distance during lectures but we aim to ventilate the building as far as possible. 

*Children and Junior Members under 11 are exempt from wearing a mask. 

Our schools programme will remain online and we are working in partnership on our outreach programme in the community.  We continue to contribute to city wide initiatives including City of Literature events.

Courtenay Room refreshments

We are offering bookable  lunches on Saturdays in the Courtenay Room and menus and booking details can be found here: courtenay-room-lunches

During usual open hours, the Courtenay Room and garden are available for members wishing to purchase self-service refreshments, or you can bring your own.

We request that you use the hand sanitiser provided before using the hot drink facilities.

Institution Garden

If the weather allows, our garden remains accessible throughout the winter months and is a haven in the city and the ideal safe space to catch up with other members and relax.   Newspapers may be taken outside and then returned to the Outer Library.

Personal belongings

Please leave coats and large bags in the cloakroom.   Valuable items may be left in the office.


Our contract cleaners will be cleaning all areas of the building at the end of every day.

And finally…

If you are unable to visit the Institution we are continuing to operate a remote enquiry service for members via email to: [email protected]   If we can help in any way please do let us know.

We are continuing to keep a close eye on the situation, both locally and nationally.  Please be aware that we may need to change our plans at very short notice should circumstances require us to do so.